During high school, I was playing electric bass. I jammed with friends, listened to records, and talked about music every spare second. At some point, I stumbled upon a collection of essays about various Jazz musicians. The descriptions about each artist, from avant-garde stalwart Albert Ayler, to Count Basie and Duke Ellington, remained etched into my subconscious long before I’d heard much of their music. Now, in one sense, reading a book (I’m pretty sure critic Gene Lees was the author) of this ilk was invaluable in one way; it exposed to me to the vast and diverse world of jazz, and it could be argued that I might have not discovered any of these musicians without some guidance.
But it had consequences somehow. I didn’t realize that I’d been seduced by the curator class.
What the hell is that??
The curator’s role is not making stuff. At best, a curator serves as a needed, or at least useful, conduit between stuff and you (the consumer). So I was reading the well-articulated views of a non-musician, or an amateur musician, who clearly felt passionately about the subject of jazz, and checking out recordings. But the words were hopelessly in front of the experience. Does that make sense? I think it makes sense if you’ve experienced what I’m talking about. I think this sort of backwards entry into jazz created an approach that I’d call head-first, euphemistically. It created a harmful pattern of putting too many words around an experience, and it took a long time to break out of it.
It’s hard. We have to have names for stuff. But even that is a problem. When I teach ‘yoga’, I have to use words, and I have to call the subject ‘yoga’. In a sense that definition is the conduit for an idea, but is it the idea? I’m not sure. I do know that my attention to simple movement in the body takes me somewhere, and that experience is easily tainted by definition. I’m hopeful my words are conduits for authentic ideas in my students. But my seeing (and saying, really) are limited in the end.
Social media fosters a fertile environment for aspiring curators. One could probably say that any educator is a curator of ideas, but the modern ‘curator class’ I’m referring to are web critics, bloggers (ha) and the like who put short blurbs above articles, links to books, recordings, etc.
Yoga has its own legion of curators. You can even take workshops with yoga curators, which is kind of insane, since a yoga instructor is another curator. So it’s essentially curated curation. Anyway, I’ve stated that internet discourse is usually reactive. Thus the pull is all the more seductive. I know this piece might be confusing, but I need to cement my commitment to the ‘doing’ role, and leave the curators to talk about it amongst themselves.